Je t'aime... moi non plus

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This article is about the song. For the film, see Je t'aime moi non plus (film). For the album, see Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg.
"Je t'aime… moi non plus"
Single by
Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin
from the album
Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg
Released 1969
Format 7" single
Recorded 1969
Genre Pop, adult contemporary
Length 4:22[1]
Label UK: Fontana, Major Minor, Antic
US: Fontana
Writer(s) Serge Gainsbourg
Producer(s) Jack Baverstock
"Je t'aime… moi non plus"
Single by Donna Summer
from the album Thank God It's Friday
B-side Je t'aime… moi non plus (Part Two)
Released 1978
Format 7" single, 12" single
Recorded 1978
Genre Disco
Length 7:01
Label Casablanca
Writer(s) Serge Gainsbourg
Producer(s) Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte
Donna Summer singles chronology
"Last Dance"
(1978)
"Je t'aime… moi non plus"
(1978)
"MacArthur Park"
(1978)

"Je t'aime… moi non plus" (French for "I love you… me neither") is a French duet written by Serge Gainsbourg. It was written for and sung with Brigitte Bardot in 1967, but that version was not released until 1986. In 1969, Gainsbourg recorded a version with his lover, Jane Birkin. It reached number one in the UK, and number two in Ireland, but was banned in several countries owing to its sexual content. The song has been covered by many different artists.

History[edit]

The song was written for and recorded with Gainsbourg's girlfriend, Brigitte Bardot, in winter 1967. Bardot asked him to write the most beautiful love song he could imagine and that night he wrote "Je t'aime" and "Bonnie and Clyde".[2] They recorded an arrangement of "Je t'aime" by Michel Colombier at a Paris studio in a two-hour session in a small glass booth; the engineer William Flageollet said there was "heavy petting".[3] However, news of the recording reached the press and Bardot's husband, German businessman Gunter Sachs, was angry and called for the single to be withdrawn. Bardot pleaded with Gainsbourg not to release it, and although he protested that "The music is very pure. For the first time in my life, I write a love song and it's taken badly",[3] he complied.[4][5]:92

In 1968, Gainsbourg and English actress Jane Birkin began a relationship when they met on the set of the film Slogan. After filming, he asked her to record the song with him.[3] Birkin had heard the Bardot version and thought it "so hot".[6] She said: "I only sang it because I didn't want anybody else to sing it", jealous at the thought of his sharing a recording studio with someone else. Gainsbourg asked her to sing an octave higher than Bardot, "so you'll sound like a little boy".[7] It was recorded in an arrangement by Arthur Greenslade in a studio at Marble Arch.[3] Birkin said she "got a bit carried away with the heavy breathing – so much so, in fact, that I was told to calm down, which meant that at one point I stopped breathing altogether. If you listen to the record now, you can still hear that little gap."[6] There was media speculation, as with the Bardot version, that they had recorded live sex, to which Gainsbourg told Birkin, "Thank goodness it wasn't, otherwise I hope it would have been a long-playing record."[3] It was released in February 1969.[2] The single had a plain cover, with the words "Interdit aux moins de 21 ans" (forbidden to those under 21),[8] and the record company changed the label from Philips to Fontana.[2]

Gainsbourg also asked Marianne Faithfull to record the song with him; she said: "Hah! He asked everybody".[9] Others approached included Valérie Lagrange and Mireille Darc.[3] Bardot regretted not releasing her version, and her friend Jean-Louis Remilleux persuaded her to contact Gainsbourg. They released it in 1986.[5]:147

Lyrics and music[edit]

The title was inspired by a Salvador Dalí comment: "Picasso is Spanish, me too. Picasso is a genius, me too. Picasso is a communist, me neither".[8][10] Gainsbourg claimed it was an "anti-fuck" song about the desperation and impossibility of physical love.[3] The lyrics are written as a dialogue between two lovers during sex. Phrases include:

"Je vais et je viens, entre tes reins" ("I go and I come, between your loins")
"Tu es la vague, moi l'île nue" ("You are the wave, I the naked/treeless/deserted island")
"L'amour physique est sans issue" ("Physical love is hopeless/childless/impotent/a dead end")

"Moi non plus" is translated as "I love you – me not anymore" in The Pet Shop Boys' version. The lyrics are sung, spoken and whispered over a baroque organ and guitar track[8][11] in C major,[2] with a "languid, almost over pretty, chocolate box melody".[3]

Reception[edit]

When the version with Bardot was recorded, the French press reported that it was an "audio vérité". France Dimanche said the "groans, sighs, and Bardot's little cries of pleasure [give] the impression you're listening to two people making love".[3] The first time Gainsbourg played it in public was in a Paris restaurant immediately after they recorded it. Birkin said that "as it began to play all you could hear were the knives and forks being put down. 'I think we have a hit record', he said."[3][6]

The lyrical subtleties were lost on late-1960s Brits. What they heard was an expertly stroked organ, orgasmic groans and a soft-focus melody, the musical equivalent of a Vaseline-smeared Emmanuelle movie. It was confirmation that life across the Channel was one of unchecked lubriciousness, and Je t'aime became as essential a part of any successful seduction as a chilled bottle of Blue Nun.

— Sylvie Simmons, Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes, 2001[3]

The eroticism was declared offensive. The lyrics are commonly thought to refer to the taboo of sex without love, and were delivered in a breathy, suggestive style. The Observer Monthly Music magazine called it "the pop equivalent of an Emmanuelle movie".[11]

The song culminates in orgasm sounds by Birkin: mostly because of this, it was banned from radio in Spain, Sweden, Brazil, the UK,[11] Italy,[12] Poland, and Portugal,[citation needed] banned before 11 pm in France, not played by many radio stations in the United States because it was deemed too risqué,[2] and denounced by the Vatican and the L'Osservatore Romano;[11][12] one report even claimed the Vatican excommunicated the record executive who released it in Italy.[8] Birkin says Gainsbourg called the Pope "our greatest PR man".[6]

Birkin said in 2004 that, "It wasn't a rude song at all. I don't know what all the fuss was about. The English just didn't understand it. I'm still not sure they know what it means."[13] When Gainsbourg went to Jamaica to record with Sly and Robbie, they initially did not get on well. They said "We know just one piece of French music, a song called Je t'aime… Moi Non Plus, which has a girl groaning in it." Gainsbourg said "It's me", and their mood changed immediately.[3]

Commercial success[edit]

The song was a commercial success throughout Europe. By 1986, it had sold four million copies. In the UK, it was released on the Fontana label, but, after reaching number two, it was withdrawn for sale. Gainsbourg arranged a deal with Major Minor Records and on re-release it reached number one, the first banned number one single in the UK[11] and the first single in a foreign language to top the charts. It stayed on the UK chart for 31 weeks.[14] It even made the Top 100 in the United States, reaching number 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart .[15] Mercury Records, the US distributor, faced criticism that the song was "obscene" and there was limited airplay, limiting US sales to around 150,000.[16] It was re-released in the UK in late 1974 on the Atlantic Records subsidiary Antic Records and charted again peaking at No. 31 and charting for nine weeks.

Chart (1969) Peak
position
Ö3 Austria Top 40 1
German Musikmarkt/Media Control Charts 3[17]
Dutch Top 40 2
Irish Singles Chart 2
Norwegian VG-lista Chart 1
Swiss Top 100 Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 1
US Billboard Hot 100 58[18]

Covers[edit]

The song has been covered dozens of times, both serious and comedic.[19] The first covers were instrumentals, "Love at first sight", after the original was banned;[19] the first version by Sounds Nice became a top 20 hit.[20] The first parody was written in 1970 by Gainsbourg himself and Marcel Mithois. Titled "Ça", it was recorded by Bourvil and Jacqueline Maillan, Bourvil's last release before his death.[19][21] Other comedy versions were made by Frankie Howerd and June Whitfield, Judge Dread, and Gorden Kaye and Vicki Michelle, stars of the BBC TV comedy 'Allo 'Allo!, in character.[19]

The song influenced the 1975 disco classic "Love to Love You Baby" by singer Donna Summer and producer Giorgio Moroder; they duetted "Je t'aime" in a 15 minute version for the film Thank God It's Friday in 1978.[22] UK Jazz rap group Blown released a Trip hop version of the song as a single in 1994.[23] In 1998, Sam Taylor-Wood recorded a cover with the Pet Shop Boys for the compilation CD/book "futique" entitled Ambassadors – We Love You, a concept designed to promote collaboration between visual and musical artists. This track was a bonus on the "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More" CD single.[24][25]

In 2002, Trash Palace published a cover version on their album Positions, featuring Brian Molko of Placebo and Asia Argento. The singers reverse their parts throughout the song, so that sometimes the female persona was sung by Molko.[26][27] Cat Power and Karen Elson performed "a suitably breathy sapphic treatment"[28] in English entitled I love you (me either) for the 2005 tribute album Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited. In 2007, Michael Moore used the song in his film Sicko. In 2012, Madonna performed the song live during her exclusive concert at the L'Olympia in Paris, France, during her MDNA Tour.[29]

The song's riffs and other parts have been used and sampled in various other songs, including: "A Fair Affair" by Misty Oldland;[30] "Guitar Song" by Texas on the album The Greatest Hits[31] and released as a single in Belgium in 2001; and a version of "Breathe" in Kylie Minogue's 2003 Money Can't Buy concert at the Hammersmith Apollo in London.[32]

Selected list of recorded versions[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1969 Album on the AMG. Retrieved 15 February 2007
  2. ^ a b c d e Durand, Mathieu (February 2009). "Chanson cul(te) Je t'aime moi non plus". Evene. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Simmons, Sylvie (2 February 2001). "The eyes have it". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  4. ^ a b RFI Musique – - Serge Gainsbourg
  5. ^ a b Singer, Barnett (2006). Brigitte Bardot: a biography. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-2515-6. 
  6. ^ a b c d Walden, Celia (13 October 2009). "Jane Birkin interview". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  7. ^ Lloyd, Albertina (17 October 2009). "Birkin: Much more than a bag". Kidderminster Shuttle. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d Zwerin, Mike (29 January 2003). "Music's laureate of the outrageous". New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2010. [dead link]
  9. ^ Sylvie Simmons (2 February 2001). "An extract from Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes by Sylvie Simmons | Books". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  10. ^ In French: "Picasso est espagnol, moi aussi. Picasso est un génie, moi aussi. Picasso est communiste, moi non plus".[1]
  11. ^ a b c d e Spencer, Neil (22 May 2005). "The 10 most x-rated records". Observer Music Monthly (London: Guardian Newspapers). Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  12. ^ a b Cheles, Luciano; Sponza, Lucio (2001). The art of persuasion: political communication in Italy from 1945 to the 1990s. Manchester University Press. p. 331. ISBN 0-7190-4170-8. 
  13. ^ Solomons, Jason (15 August 2004). "'Serge needed all the love he could get'". The Observer (London). Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  14. ^ a b Chrisafis, Angelique (14 April 2006). "Gainsbourg, je t'aime". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  15. ^ Top Pop Singles (8th edition) by Joel Whitburn
  16. ^ "Steinberg: Obscenity is Relative". Billboard. 7 November 1970. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  17. ^ Peak position on German Musikmarkt/Media Control Charts|accessdate=27 February 2011
  18. ^ Allmusic.com : Jane Birkin Awards
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Weaver, Julian (14 February 2003). "je t'aime moi non plus: a maintes reprises transcript". hypo.io. Resonance FM. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  20. ^ Larkin, Colin (1998). The encyclopedia of popular music. Volume 7 (3 ed.). Macmillan. p. 5049. ISBN 0-333-74134-X. 
  21. ^ Way, Michael (5 September 1970). "Paris". Billboard. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  22. ^ a b Spencer, Kristopher (2008). Film and television scores, 1950–1979: a critical survey by genre. McFarland. p. 122. ISBN 0-7864-3682-4. 
  23. ^ Discogs; retrieved 08-07-14
  24. ^ "Pet Shop Boys' arty comeback". BBC News. 15 June 1999. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  25. ^ "Collaborations". Pet Shop Boys at dead of night. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  26. ^ a b Dark, Jane (6 August 2002). "Fever Pitch: Asia Argento Branches Out in the Family Business". Village Voice. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  27. ^ Andrieu, Pierre (1 April 2003). "Positions". Foutraque (in French). Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  28. ^ Murphy, John (May 2006). "Various – Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited: A Tribute to Serge Gainsbourg (Universal)". MusicOMH. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  29. ^ McNicoll, Tracy (2012-09-07). "Intimate Madonna Show at Paris’s Olympia Hall Turns Ugly". The Daily Beast. The Newsweek Daily Beast Company. Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  30. ^ "Misty Oldland et Brand New Heavies". L'Express (in French). 16 June 1994. Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  31. ^ Catroux, Sébastien (28 October 2000). "Les tubes de Texas et des inédits". Le Parisien. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  32. ^ McLean, Craig (17 November 2003). "A real tour de force". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  33. ^ "Bardot revived as download star". BBC News. 17 October 2006. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  34. ^ a b c Warwick, Neil; Kutner, Jon; Brown, Tony (2004). The complete book of the British charts: singles & albums (3 ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 1-84449-058-0. 
  35. ^ "Quand Gainsbourg faisait son cinéma…". Allocine. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  36. ^ McFadyen, Warwick (18 June 2005). "Strike up the banned". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  37. ^ Hardy, Phil; Laing, Dave (1976). The Encyclopedia of rock 3. Panther. 
  38. ^ "Trafassi". Muziekencyclopedie.nl. Muziek Centrum Nederland. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  39. ^ "Les Femmes Erotiques - Je T'aime, Moi Non Plus (CD) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  40. ^ "Sexo Pop". La Nacion (in Spanish) (Chile). 9 March 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  41. ^ Robbins, Ira A. (1997). "je+t'aime" The Trouser Press guide to '90s rock. Simon & Schuster. p. 463. ISBN 0-684-81437-4. 
  42. ^ Wolk, Douglas (7 November 1997). "Sharps & flats". Salon. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  43. ^ "Reviews". CMJ New Music Monthly. December 1997. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  44. ^ Wolk, Douglas (November 1999). "Singles". CMJ New Music Monthly. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  45. ^ Chelley, Isabelle (1 June 2004). "Miss Kittin passe des platines à l’album". 20 minutes. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  46. ^ Youngs, Ian (21 June 2003). "Orchestra makes ukulele cult hit". BBC News. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
UK Singles Chart number one single
7 October 1969
Succeeded by
"I'll Never Fall In Love Again" by Bobbie Gentry
Preceded by
"In the Year 2525" by Zager and Evans
Swiss Singles Chart number one single
2 September 1969 – 21 October 1969
Succeeded by
"Grüezi wohl, Frau Stirnimaa" by Die Minstrels